From the Associated Press:
The Supreme Court will decide whether government officials who testify falsely while acting as a complaining witness have absolute immunity from civil lawsuits.
The high court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Charles Rehberg, who sent faxes criticizing the Phoebe Putney Health System, an influential Georgia hospital system.
Rehberg was arrested after investigator James Paulk of the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office testified to a grand jury that the accountant had harassed doctors.
Paulk, who started the investigation as a favor to hospital officials, later said he had no evidence and had not talked to any witnesses. The charges were dismissed.
Rehberg sued, but Paulk says he is protected by immunity because the claims took place while he was working as a government official.
Rehberg and Dr. John Bagnato, a prominent surgeon, also sued Ken Hodges, who was then the Dougherty County District Attorney and later unsuccessfully ran for state attorney general.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former prosecutor couldn’t be sued. The high court appeal only deals with Paulk, however.
Rehberg settled his defamation lawsuit with Phoebe Putney for an undisclosed amount.
The court will hear the case later this year.
The case is Rehberg v. Paulk, 10-788.
The incident dates back to 2003. A 55-minute documentary, called “Do No Harm,” was released in 2009, though Georgia Public Broadcasting declined to air it.
Also note that Ken Hodges, who lost his Democratic contest to Republican Sam Olens in November, is not a party in the U.S. Supreme Court case.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider